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Argentina reports highest rate of mining exploration since 2012

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Mining investments in Argentina hit a decade-high last year primarily because of an increasing rate of gold exploration, according to the country’s Ministry of Economy.

Argentina’s Mining Secretariat Fernanda Avila said Thursday that approximately US$370 million was invested throughout the country last year, representing a year-over-year (YoY) increase of 68 per cent from 2021 and the greatest dollar amount put toward mining there since 2012.

“The mining industry in the country is in full swing,” said Avila, adding that mining exports from Argentina were expected to increase by over 100 per cent in the next two years to an approximate value of US$8.6 billion.

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Gold, copper and lithium were the main contributors with investments in gold totaling US$173 million, an 84 per cent YoY increase; copper expenditure rising by 62 per cent YoY to US$81 million; and US$72 million invested in lithium, a 31 per cent increase from 2021.

The number of workers involved in the mining industry increased by 7.5 per cent in 2022 and Argentina’s mining and energy output rose by 7.8 per cent YoY in May as well.

Argentina is home to Newmont Corporation’s (TSX: NGT) (NYSE: NEM) Cerro Negro operation in Santa Cruz, which generated US$500 million from exports last year alone. The world’s largest gold producer recently invested an additional US$540 million to extend the mine’s life until 2034.

The country is the fourth-largest producer of lithium in the world and accounts for approximately 5.9 per cent of the element/metal globally. In 2021, Argentina sat in spot number three for countries hosting the majority of the world’s lithium reserves, second only to Chile and Australia.

Lithium exploration is the fastest-growing segment of the country’s mining industry and 70 per cent of Argentina’s proven lithium resources are yet to be prospected, according to the United States International Trade Administration.

It also hosts the Los Azules copper mining operation in San Juan, which has received substantial investments in recent days from major automotive manufacturing and mining companies like Stellantis (NYSE: STLA) (Euronext Milan: STLAM) (Euronext Paris: STLAP) and Rio Tinto Ltd. (ASX: RIO) (LON: RIO). The latest mineral resource estimate at the project found that the site contained 10.9 billion pounds of indicated copper.

Gold, silver and copper are the country’s top exports from mining and copper represents over 50 per cent of the country’s US$27 billion portfolio of mining projects. Neighbouring Chile is the top copper-producing country in the world.

Mining companies operating in the Latin American nation include Fortuna Silver Mines Inc. (NYSE: FSM) (TSX: FVI), owner of the Lindero open-pit gold mine; Argentina Lithium & Energy Corp. (TSX-V: LIT) (OTC: PNXLF), which completed its initial drill campaign at the Salta province’s Rincon West project at the end of May; and AngloGold Ashanti (JSE: ANG), owner and operator of the Cerro Vanguardia gold and silver mine in Santa Cruz.

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